Eagles still in playoff hunt after Nick Foles’ record-breaking performance in win over Texans.
The Eagles are still flying.
Kicker Jake Elliott nailed a 35-yard walk-off field goal to give the Birds (8–7) a thrilling 32–30 victory over the Houston Texans (10–5) at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday afternoon.
The win gives the Eagles one more chance to make the postseason next Sunday when they travel to Washington, D.C. to take on the Redskins in the season finale. Washington has been eliminated from playoff contention.
The Birds got no help from anyone Sunday. The Dallas Cowboys clinched the NFC East when they defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Minnesota Vikings knocked off the Detroit Lions on the road to hold on to the №6 seed. The Seattle Seahawks beat the Kansas City Chiefs at home Sunday night, so they clinched one of the two remaining Wild Card spots.
All that is left is this: The Eagles must defeat the Redskins next Sunday, and the Chicago Bears must defeat the Vikings. If that happens, they’re in.
The Bears will be playing for the chance to grab the №2 seed, so there is hope.
Quarterback Nick Foles turned in one of the most courageous performances of his already legendary career in an Eagles uniform.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson had just brought his team back from a 13-point, fourth-quarter deficit to take the lead with 2:05 left when he threaded a 35-yard touchdown pass to Vyncint Smith in the back of the end zone.
With 1:50 left in the fourth quarter, trailing 30–29, Foles was facing a major challenge in that the Eagles had to win or face certain elimination from the playoffs, leaving them no chance to defend their Super Bowl championship.
It was third-and-10 from the Eagles’ 11-yard line. Foles dropped back to pass with the goal line at his heels. Last year’s Super Bowl MVP drilled a 19-yard strike to Alshon Jeffery, who, with two defenders on him, made a leaping fingertip catch at the Eagles’ 30 for a first down.
As he was throwing the ball, Foles was speared in the chest, helmet first, by Texans jack linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, who was called for a 15-yard penalty, giving the Eagles the ball at their 45-yard line.
Silence took over the Linc while Foles was lying on his back on the turf, clearly shaken up on the play.
But Foles got up, dusted himself off, and after the mandatory exit for one play (an intentional out-of-bounds pass by Nate Sudfeld), the 29-year-old, seven-year veteran came back to connect on a 20-yard completion to tight end Zach Ertz and two handoffs to Darren Sproles for another 18 yards, killing the clock, and setting up Elliott’s winning field goal.
“I was very impressed,” left guard Stefen Wisniewski said at his locker after the game. “He’s obviously very tough. I was just thinking, ‘We’re going to win this game.’ I have so much respect for that guy and his ability, his character, how he plays quarterback, how he carries himself as a person on and off the field. Man, the guy’s just got ice in his veins at the end of a game, doesn’t he?”
Wisniewski was asked if Foles inspired the entire offensive unit.
“Yeah, absolutely,” the eight-year veteran out of Penn State said. “I don’t think there was a doubt in anybody’s mind that we weren’t going to win that game.”
Foles was basically the Eagles offense as the Birds could only muster 57 yards rushing on 22 carries. Sproles carried nine times for 32 yards. But his 16-yard run on the game-winning drive was crucial.
Foles had a record-breaking day, going 35-for-49 for 471 yards, four touchdown passes and one interception. He was sacked once.
The 471 yards set a franchise record for passing yards in one game, breaking the previous mark set by Donovan McNabb on Dec. 5, 2004 vs. Green Bay (464 yards). His 471 passing yards are the second-most by an NFL QB this season, trailing only Patrick Mahomes on Nov. 19 at the Los Angeles Rams (478 yards).
“That was more yards than any quarterback in history?” center Jason Kelce said at his locker after the game when he was asked about the record. “I did not know that. He had a great day. They’re a great front, they have a great defense. Credit to those guys especially. Our tackles had their hands full all day. Nick played lights out for us.”
Kelce said he has to take at least part of the blame for Clowney’s hit on Foles.
“It was my fault, too,” Kelce said. “I have to pass that game off better. Seeing him lying there, that was frustrating for me watching that and wondering if he’s going to get up or not.”
Zach Ertz caught 12 passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He now has 113 receptions in 2018, surpassing Jason Witten in 2012 (110) for the most receptions by a tight end in NFL single-season history.
Ertz said breaking Witten’s record had not sunk in yet.
“I don’t think I’ve truly come to grips with it yet,” Ertz said. “One thing I do know is that I’m thankful to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for allowing me to be here. I’m thankful for everyone that has helped me along the way. The one thing I do know is that I didn’t get here by myself. Jason Witten has been a huge part of this, so technically, I think a part of him still has the record. (Former Eagle) Brent Celek has also been huge for me. There just have been so many people along the way that have helped me that I’m just eternally grateful for.”
The Texans were without their productive running back, Lamar Miller, and it showed. Houston rushed just 19 times for 62 yards. Forty-nine of those yards and two rushing touchdowns came from Watson.
The second-year signal caller out of Clemson was 29-of-40 for 339 yards and two passing TDs. He was sacked four times but did not throw an interception.
Watson talked about the playoff atmosphere at the Linc and how the Texans seem to be in so many close games this year.
“Every game is a playoff game in the NFL,” Watson said. “Everyone is fighting for that, for the opportunity to get in. Everyone is good, everyone is trying to get the position and try to have the opportunity to go for the biggest goal.”
Foles became emotional when asked whether it occurred to him that this may have been the last game he will play here in Philadelphia:
“It did. It’s emotional. Like I said, I love playing in Philly,” Foles said. “I knew there was a chance this could be it. I don’t think about the future, but I am aware of that because this city means a lot to me, this team means a lot to me, wearing that jersey means a lot to me. A couple weeks ago, when I ran out of the tunnel, I didn’t expect to play. I’m there to support the team and do what I can. I got emotional then because I knew that there’s a chance it’s coming to an end, but at the end of the day, I’m very grateful for every opportunity to play here, to play in front of our fans, to wear that jersey no matter what. No one can ever take that away from me. This was a special one tonight. I don’t know what the future holds. I’m not going to worry about it. I’m just going to focus on now, enjoy just being in Philadelphia, enjoy the people, enjoy wearing this jersey because it’s some of the most special moments of my life.”
It’s been special for Eagles fans to have Foles here as well. Those fans hope his work is still not over. ••
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii